By Esin Huseyin
A couple of weeks back I had the privilege of joining Zomato at the St James’ branch of Villandry for a #ZomatoMeetup – one of the first ones for us at Maybe It’s Because.
We had the chance to enjoy a private tasting menu, in an intimate setting, with their in-house sommelier Monique Ziervogel, who took us through all the grapes and the flavour pairings.
It was a night of many firsts for me, trying new dishes, as well as breaking my year-long alcohol ban – but I will still be concentrating on the food within my review.
I had the pleasure of trying:
- Steak Tartare
- Gazpacho of Heritage tomatoes, from the Isle of Wight
- Pea & Ricotta Risotto
- Lamb Rump, with summer vegetables Provencale
- Trou Normande
- Carrot Galette, with hummus & raw mixed vegetables
- Panna Cotta & Berries
I’m one of those annoying people that doesn’t quite like eating anything seafood related, so I did miss out on the opportunity to taste their famous Spicy squid, Sea Trout and their risotto with scallops.
Like I said, that night was a night of firsts for me, as I had never had a Steak Tartare. Luckily for me the egg yolk was held on an egg on top, as I’m also one of those annoying people that doesn’t like egg. The meat although raw, had a pretty great texture – not chewy at all. It had also been beautifully seasoned, I could taste the pepper really coming through. The meat was very fine and practically melted in the mouth: it was paired with some small pieces of toasted bread.
The Gazpacho, believe it or not, was also a first for me – I started to worry about the idea of eating cold soup, it seemed so alien. The soup was bursting with flavours, and the use of different coloured tomatoes really brought out the flavour in the gazpacho. It was very fine, and it packed a garlicky punch which I loved. In the centre was some nuts, which gave it the necessary texture. Villandry, you changed my outlook on life, basically.
The risotto was a pretty large portion, and the ricotta made this an absolutely dreamy dish. I enjoyed the fact that the peas weren’t fully cooked, as it gave the dish more texture, as well as more of a pea taste. This is a perfect Spring/Summer dish, and one of the best risottos I’ve had.
Now we all know I love a bit of meat, so it’s of no surprise that the lamb rump was going to be a winner with me. Beautifully tender meat served medium/rare on a bed of vegetables not too dissimilar to ratatouille. The vegetables were very high in flavour, but the sauce didn’t overpower the meat. I could have eaten plates of this. Plates.
Our palette cleanser, or a Trou Normande, was some sorbet floating in a desert wine – honestly pretty magical. You should have seen a full table of adults losing their mind over the sorbet bobbing to the top of the dish and floating. Playful, very fresh, and a nice little nudge to sorbets without milk.
The Carrot Galette was great, but honestly not one you can eat with your dignity still intact. The raw vegetables are quite long so you’ll be covering your mouth and sucking them up like some spaghetti. The galette was lighter than I thought it would be, not at all filling, and was definitely a great dish to substitute any meat dish. The galette was still warm, which was a nice contradiction to the raw vegetables. Great flavours that went well together.
Last but not least the Panna Cotta that had just the right amount of wobble. Absolutely wonderful texture, it melted in the mouth. The fresh yet slightly bitter berries were a beautiful accompaniment. For someone who isn’t crazy about their deserts – I licked the plate clean, metaphorically of course.
If you’re after a hearty French restaurant with Mediterranean influences, Villandry is your place. Fresh and beautiful flavours, and you honestly know you’re in good hands. It was great to hear from Monique as well, even if that included pairing the Gazpacho with a sherry, just to bring out that bitter saltiness – I trusted you Monique, and it worked.
Incredible first tastes, incredible first #ZomatoMeetup – Villandry, it was an absolute pleasure.